Mung dal puree for Iqaluit hunters and gatherers

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‘You and I take vegetarian food for granted’, said my friend Connie.

She was sharing her experience while helping the native Inuit of Iqaluit. ‘They find the texture of lentils unfamiliar. Its not part of their culture. They are hunters and gatherers’, she said.

Connie is right. I’m fortunate I was raised in a country like India. Where Its super easy to prepare light, unprocessed, sustainable recipes. I could easily cook lentils 365 days of the year and not have to repeat a recipe. I really feel for new vegans. Especially those for whom a veg diet is not part of their food culture.

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To help the people of Iqaluit, Connie has been fund raising for months. Iqaluit is a northern city closer to Greenland than it is to Ontario where I live.

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With the funds raised, she bought them this industrial grade food processor to puree their lentils. She’s flown off to Iqualuit to hand this off. So their lentils will be more palatable to their hunter – gatherer state. Wow, look at the size of that..I’m surprised Connie can even hold it up!

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I promised to write her an easy puree lentil recipe that they could blend in their soup kitchen as they transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer.

Ingredients
½ cup yellow mung beans

1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tbsp fresh garlic
½ cup tomatoes
¼ cup onions
Spice mix
1 tbsp curry leaves or kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp fresh lemon/lime juice
1 big brown cardamom
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh cilantro
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
¼ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
Pinch hing

Method
• Wash mung beans thoroughly. Soak in 1 cup water and cook till soft.
• Chop onions, garlic and ginger and tomatoes. Set aside.
• Heat coconut oil in pan. Apsara tip – I’m excited & grateful to have a chance to introduce the hunter-gatherer inuit to vegan food.. I’m not sure what oils they have locally available so will leave choice of oil to them and to you. Coconut oil in my humble opinion is great. I believe its best not to judge choice of oil anyone wishes to use., but only point out what is healthy and best for body.
• Add cumin seeds, hing and then quickly add onions, garlic and ginger. Saute till cooked and soft.
• Add tomatoes and spices and let cook till soft.
• Add cooked mung beans and ½ cup water. Let come to boil.
• Take off stove. Puree the entire soup. Stir in lemon juice and fresh cilantro leaves.
• Serve with your choice of flatbread- indian chapati, or pita bread or any bread :)

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Health benefits:
88eba384e7d9cefbMung beans are the healthiest beans going around. According to Ayurveda, indian system of health, the smaller the beans the easier to digest.

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Look at Timbit in the kitchen. that’s a quiet cat. First time I’ve seen him stay so quiet. no take that back, he’s quite a zen cat :) look at him watching my yoga class..10952295_10204735306214695_1929285923377642519_n

Though the Iqualuit inspired this post, dear reader, anyone who is a new vegan or even a seasoned vegan can easily try my recipe. You will be sure to fall in love with it. Its foolproof and delicious beyond description.

–charuyoga–

Meatless Monday with mango nectarine salsa

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Ever had a sluggish constitution?
Ever felt tired and bloated for hours or days after a big meal?
Ever wondered why you feel so lethargic hours after a big meal?
Then read on for one sure fire way to get your intestines moving along and keeping you healthy.

During teacher training, I learnt more about the benefits of fasting and a meatless diet. Our intestines can take anywhere between 4 hours to days to digest the heavy foods we eat. The problem becomes bigger if we stuff ourselves with food, without paying conscious attention to how much we really need versus how greedy we are.

From a yoga perspective, digestion is a downward activity. Yoga with its focus on energy has many types of energies depending on function. Digestion uses a downward energy called Apana which helps with elimination. Digestion takes up a lot of energy. A good healthy diet with exercise will focus on reducing energy spent on digesting food. A healthy body focusses on increases upward moving energy called Prana which is what we need for mental work. The heavier foods we eat, the harder it is for our mind to focus as more energy is being used towards digestion.

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Mondays are meatless fasting days. I really missed my once-a-week fruit fasts while on my yoga teacher training. My excuse: its hard to get picky on a yoga camp.. eat what’s lovingly prepared is the best way. Plus there was a lot of learning to do. So really appreciated having the staff cook us meals & not worry about going fruit picking.

A meatless diet aids with digestion. It is one of the first principles of yoga called ahimsa or non-violence towards everyone, including animals, others & of course ourselves.
A meat eater friend of mine decided to try the Monday fast with great results. My coworkers tried it and loved it so much some of them now do it twice a week. Now before you faint and think it’s a complete fast, I have to let you know. It’s a fruit and nuts fast.. and you break it at sunset with a simple meal. Coffee and tea are allowed during the day, but you might want to try tea instead. In Delhi where I first learnt the Monday fast from my Punjabi coworkers, potatoes & sweet potatoes are also allowed :). Now how can you say no to this type of fast?

Here then is my mango nectarine salsa recipe to keep you lightly fueled during your Monday meatless fast.

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½ cup cubed mango
½ cup white nectarines
1 tbsp chopped mint

Method
• Wash mango and nectarines. Don’t you love this silver plate? I managed to get wuite a collection during my yoga training. Every time I would sing at the temple, the priest would come over and present me with a plate full of mangoes :)

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• Slice mango all around in one go. This is a trick I learnt watching my cousin during summer holidays in Madras. She did such an elegant job that I have never peeled mango any other way since then.

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• Cube the mango.
• Cube nectarines, being careful to cut away any fleshy fruit too close to the seed.
• Sprinkle chopped fresh mint. Serve fresh or cold.

Apsara tip – you can use any fruit combination for this salsa. But just ensure that the fruits have the same texture and that you cut them the same size (tip from my childhood bestie who gave me this recipe). Other than that this is a pretty easy going salsa.. Another tip from my aunt who makes an awesome fresh mango pickle(recipe another time)- don’t bother with salad dressings when you have fresh and juicy summer fruit. I take her advice to heart. This salsa doesn’t need much disguise other than a slight sprinkling of fresh mint leaves on top.

Health benefits:
• You will feel lighter, literally :)
• Your digestion will thank you for it
• You won’t have a gassy feel around your abdomen
• You will feel good about staying away from meat for one day in a week
• You will move old undigested food out of your gut..(that gets toxic when sitting around for a while and impacts your other organs).
• Most important you will feel a sense of brightness as your mind is now clear. Having taken away the pressure from your body system’s focus on digestion, your mind will be able to function in a calmer, clearer, focussed, more present way.

Hope you can join me next Monday for Meatless Monday fruit & nut fast. The benefits are huge, not only physically and mentally but also for the environment and treating animals gently-its just once a week and your mind, body & soul will love you for it.. Satisfaction guaranteed otherwise money back :)

–charuyoga–

Vegan shepherd’s pie with mango nectarine salsa for mild tastes


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No more spice talk! I have a german guest. He’s been wonderful and open about trying new foods.. its only the 2nd time he’s had indian food in all his life. So I want to go a little easy in introducing a stranger to indian spices. Even though you & I know how good they are & how they elevate food to heaven level  Shhh. Its our little secret :)
He’s been very open to culinary experiences.

Asking for 2nd helpings of roasted carrot & peanut chutney to spread on top of steamed indian rice bread.

I wanted to make a gift.

Shepherd’s pie, said a voice in the back of my head.

You don’t know how and you’ve never made it before, said the same voice in the back of my head.

Ha! stop! After yoga teacher training I’m a bit smarter now. I won’t be fooled by this voice of instinct alone.

I made this equation up after a particularly intense learning about instinct in my recent Sivananda yoga teacher training.
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Ok, time for the recipe… the whole point was to tell you, my intuition won. It said you’ve been cooking for so many years. Its almost as if you were a cook in your past life. You know how to break down complex recipes.. and make them easy to do. So with the kind support of intuition :) vegan shepherd’s pie was born. I want you dear reader to feel the same way about foods. Don’t hesitate to use another filling for this recipe If your heart asks for it. Listen to your heart!

kala channa – this recipe will make more than what you need.  use as much as you need & freeze the rest
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp coconut oil
Makes 8” shepherd’s pie

Method
• Prepare kala channa – just leave out the cayenne pepper as this recipe is for mild taste buds.
With fork lightly mix in flour with coconut oil and enough water to make an elastic dough. I used about ¼ cup water for ½ cup Pillsbury whole wheat flour. Go slowly with the water for whatever brand of flour you decide to use. Don’t knead too much as you want the coconut oil to be a bit solid so that it spreads and melts during baking, giving the pie crust the right yummy texture.

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• Roll out the dough on a flat surface with a rolling pin
• Spread parchment paper on 8” cast iron pan and pour kala channa on top. Spread it out.
• Place rolled dough on top and seal edges, fluting down.

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• Make a few vents to let air out during baking
• Bake in 350 C oven for approx. 45 minutes or till crust is golden brown.
• Remove from oven. Let cool. Cut into wedges and serve with mango nectarine salsa (I’ll blog the recipe tomorrow as its late & my eyes keep closing :) updated recipe blogged just follow the link..

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Apsara tip – the biggest part of this recipe is making the shepherd’s pie filling. Since I make everything from scratch and don’t use canned chickpeas, it just needs me to be a little bit more organized. But the end result – merveilleux !!! you simply can’t compare freshly prepared, no preservatives, no canned food with canned chickpeas. Since I wanted to serve the pie for dinner, I soaked the chickpeas in the morning, so that I could make the kala channa in the evening. See how simple it gets with a little bit of organizing.

Hope you liked this recipe just like my guest did. He got caught in the rain – we had a sudden rain storm in Toronto & since he’s an avid biker who’s biking across Ontario, he had to take shelter. He wasn’t really planning to eat this, but when he saw it he had to give it a try and was happy.

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Would you like to be happy too :) then try vegan shepherd’s pie for mild Europeans & see what Happy really means.

–charuyoga–

Sweet Quebec strawberry yoghurt rice

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Summer is here ! Hot and Humid! My favorite time of the year.

Time for something chilled and cold. Yogurt rice is a classical southern Indian dish that my family used to make almost daily in summer. Its so refreshing to beat the Delhi heat.

Toronto summer feels just like Delhi today. Last Sunday, on our drive back from the yoga camp, we spotted roadside farmer stalls selling Quebec strawberries. We did a quick U turn to stop and get some.

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Having tasted these before I knew they are the best in the whole world :) tiny & flavorful. They fell out of the fridge today as I was prepping to make yoghurt rice. Naturally I sliced them & added them to cold yogurt rice. Perfect for a summer meal. Cool, refreshing, sweet & tangy with yogurt flavors, hope you enjoy this yogurt rice.

½ cup cooked brown rice
¼ cup diced strawberries
½ cup yoghurt
Spice Mix
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curry leaves
Pinch hing
Salt to taste

Method
• Wash rice thoroughly and boil in whatever technique you use. Just ensure that rice is well cooked, and soft. Set aside to cool.
• Mix in yogurt with rice and add salt. Add water so that the yogurt rice is a runny consistency like cake batter.20150730_194755
• Heat frying pan. Add coconut oil, then mustard seeds, when they splutter add ginger, curry leaves, and hing. Saute lightly.
• Pour spice mix on top of yogurt rice. Mix in well.
• Toss in strawberries.
• Best served chilled.

This yogurt rice was so yummy I ate everything, even the portion I had kept aside for tomorrow’s lunch.

Just warning you upfront so you can make extras. Quebec strawberries are absolutely the best for this dish. My French Canadian friends have spoilt me for life. They showed me where to find the best wild strawberries on our Wednesday & Sunday early morning walks at the yoga camp. But no worries if you are nowhere near Quebec. Ontario strawberries work just as great. Just pick smaller ones, which tend to be more flavorful.

p.s. If you want to go dairy free, you can make this dish  with coconut yogurt or almond yogurt or even soy yogurt !

–charuyoga–

Power up with Protein rich yard beans stir fry

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Protein! That ever important ingredient. If you are a vegan, I’m sure you have spent a fair bit of time trying to get more protein in your diet. 

So how do the vast majority of Indians manage to get protein in food without going stir crazy, without reading food labels or without trying too hard and without relying on supplements? I’ll share my secret: take it in directly through food. Make green beans a staple.

As a kid I’d love these yard beans whenever my aunt made it for me. I seemed to intuitively know & trust innocently in my body’s intelligence. I’d happily take a bowl of these beans and have just that with a dollop of yoghurt. That’s all I needed to keep me going. It kept me full without being heavy. I imagine the yogis in the Himalayas eating similar fare so that they can fuel the body lightly to keep their mind clear.

Now as an adult, I learn that these foods are best for our body. Light and yet nutritious they fuel us up to keep going.

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Eating heavy foods comes at a price. Our bodies take about 1-4 hours to digest food. The heavier the food, the longer they stay in our digestive tract. The longer they stay in our digestive tract, the less energy we have to do other things. Our whole body’s attention is turned towards digestion and there is very little energy left for mental activity or even performing physical activity. Ever felt a headache when you ate too much? this is why.

Last bonus point – these yard beans are really tasty, and they grow above soil so they get lots of direct energy from the sun that is life giving energy. Try more above ground vegetables in the summer, keep root vegetables for cool weather substance and warmth In cool weather.

2 cups loosely packed yard long beans, cut delicately Spice Garnish
1 tbsp grated coconut
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curry leaves
2 dry red chilies
1 tsp urad dal
Pinch hing
Salt to taste

Method
• Wash yard beans thoroughly. Then cut finely into delicate and small rings. The smaller you cut it the tastier these beans are.
• Steam the beans. I use a stainless steel collapsible steamer within a pressure cooker, but you can easily use a bamboo steamer or any other way to steam. Set aside beans when lightly crisp.
• Heat frying pan. Add coconut oil, then mustard seeds, when they splutter add urad dal, curry leaves, red chillies split in two and hing. Saute lightly.
• Toss the steamed yard beans in the pan, allow to coat with spice mix.
• Add salt. I’m addicted to Himalayan sea salt and would highly recommend that, even if its on the expensive side. You need very little and its good for you unlike the iodised table salt that’s full of chemicals.
• Stir in grated coconut and you’re done.
• See how easy that was. The biggest job here is cutting the yard beans.
• Serve with whole grain chapatis.

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This simple yet delectable stir fry with yard beans is my personal favorite in the green bean kingdom. Actually, who am I kidding? I’ll happily eat any kind of green beans and there are several that I’ve tried thanks to growing up in New Delhi.

These beans keep you filled up in a healthy and light way, plus they are delicious when served with whole grain chapatti. Never made chapati before, then try this step by step post I wrote up.

–charuyoga–

Field greens mung beans with coconut curry

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Just back from a yoga teacher training course. Intense 4 weeks of studying philosophy, anatomy, physiology, bhagavad geeta, chanting, practicing asanas, doing karma yoga(service). And best of all hanging out with 72 other fun loving yogis. A luxury to immerse myself in yoga with no household chores to do.

Yoga camp food is satvic. That means no onions and garlic and of course no meat! All these foods are avoided for several reasons which I’ll tell you about in another post. I missed cooking so much and missed spinach so much that on my home back from work today, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up baby spinach. But since they didn’t have any, I settled for field greens. Why? You might ask. The peppery taste of arugula in my workplace terrace garden was fresh in my mouth from this afternoon.

This recipe is Simplicity at its best – fresh field greens, coconut, and yes, I included red onions, but feel free to skip onions. This was heaven in my mouth. I believe you will agree when you try it out.

2 cups loosely packed field greens
½ cup chopped red onions
¼ cup yellow mung beans
½ tsp lemon juice
Spice Garnish
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp grated coconut
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curry leaves
2 dry red chilies
1 tsp urad dal
Pinch hing
Salt to taste

Method
• Wash yellow moong beans thoroughly. Soak in fresh water and keep aside while prepping remaining vegetables.
• Chop onions and finely mince ginger. Set aside.
• Wash and cut field greens coarsely.
• Heat frying pan. Add coconut oil, then cumin seeds and dry red chillies. Then quickly toss in curry leaves and ginger, hing. Saute lightly.
• Add onions and saute till cooked.
• Drain the moong beans and add to pan. Add ½ cup water and let the moong beans cook till water is completely absorbed.
• Add in the chopped field greens and saute lightly.
• Stir in coconut and squeeze ½ tsp fresh lemon juice. Add salt to taste.
• Serve with steamed brown rice and some sweet potato home fries. The slightly peppery taste of field greens is balanced nicely by the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Not to mention the health kick from sweet potatoes with tons of beta carotene. In addition the texture is a awesome foil to the field greens.

When I went to the yoga camp to study for yoga teacher training I had no idea what to expect. I went there without any expectations other than my memories of a beautiful ashram created by swami vishnudevenanda. Early this year I had 3 strong desires to learn so that I could share with others. These were in no particular order:
1. To study anatomy & physiology – check 
2. Study relaxation techniques
3. To connect with my yoga lineage – check
My first dream came true in april when I had the awesome chance to study anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff. I’m always awed when my dreams come true :)

Connecting with my lineage has been a strong desire for a while now. Having a guru is very important to me as I seem to have an emotional side that appreciates guidance. Having a guru also makes things easier on the spiritual path. Like so many others I’ve learnt from many masters, both formally and informally, I feel its time to follow a single master now. It was no surprise that the yoga ashram with which I connected, Swami Sivananda, where I’ve been going for retreats in the Bahamas for the past few years was the one I was destined to follow! 

See how nicely the master sums up the idea of karma yoga(or service)

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Bonus dream comes true! I had always wanted to have a community of like minded yogis to share and learn from and this desire was fulfilled beautifully. I studied with 72 other students during my yoga training. 

I loved marrying the sweetness of coconut with the peppery taste of field greens. Plus mung beans add the much needed protein touch for a vegetarian. and double bonus, you need very little dry mung beans. Why? Well they swell when they are soaked in water. Cooking lets them swell some more. I love love being thrifty in my cooking. Making the tastiest food possible with the least amount of effort, minimum ingredients, minimum fuss, high on flavour & nutrition–the entire meal took me less than 1/2 hour from start to finish to prepare. Delicious field greens with mung beans and coconut, hope you enjoy it.. Do comment below on how you enjoyed it.. I would love to hear from you.

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–charuyoga–

Say No to White (rice that is :) -lemon ginger brown rice

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“Brown rice is too hard on my stomach” stated my mom. She had just arrived on a visit from overseas. When she found out I had made the switch she kept opening all my grain containers to look for even a few last remnants of white rice she could cook for herself. How can anyone decide how something is before even trying it out was my confused reaction. So she tried it out and was pleasantly surprised.

What if you could lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease and insulin spikes with this brown substitute for your regular weight?

Dear reader, Wait till you see the research I’m going to reveal to you. I have just the right data points for you. I put it all together in a comparative chart form for you to read and make up your mind.

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That was data but we are humans not machines. While this data is impressive, are you going to be able to eat it is a fundamental question my punjabi friends would say.

For your eating pleasure then, here is lemon ginger brown rice that I made for my park yoga participants.

1 cup brown rice
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Spice Mix
1 tbsp split yellow peas
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
½ tsp fresh minced ginger
½ tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp curry leaf
1 dry red chili
1 tsp urad dal
Pinch hing
Salt to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil

Method
• Wash and rinse brown rice.
• Cook with 3 cups water till soft(please note the ratio will be different for different types of brown rice. (basmati will need less, short grain will take more). I used my pressure cooker. Set aside. Spread onto a large plate and fluff up the rice with a fork to allow it to cool quickly. 
• In pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds, urad dal. When they splutter add red chilli, curry leaves, ginger, sunflower seeds, split yellow peas, turmeric, hing and saute. 
• Pour the spice mix onto the rice. Mix well.
• Squeeze in lemon juice. Add salt to taste.

apsara touch – did you notice sunflower seeds. that was my innovation :) typically lemon rice uses roasted peanuts, but to make this recipe nut free, I decided to roast sunflower seeds instead. hope you like the idea!

Lemon ginger brown rice is ready!

My yoga in the park participants loved both the yoga + tasty vegan brunch. Weather forecast called for rain, so I switched parks to one with a beautiful gazebo.20150614_110110

Nothing like doing yoga in the park with light rain on the gazebo roof, all of us sheltered from the rain yet able to feel the fresh air and listen to the neighbouring church bells.

Not only did participants love the meal, but also a homeless girl who was watching us. I served her a plate of food which she happily accepted. When we were about to leave, she 20150614_110123

comes up to us holding this pretty pink peony. your whole house will smell sweet, she said, take it, it’s for you.. it was the last on the tree. What a sweet totally unexpected surprise. Sometimes I’m blown away. when I see those with the so-called least being able to give the most.

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Now you know my new secret to a flatter belly. Ever since I made the switch to brown rice, I find I only need a handful to fill me up. With white I needed 2 handfuls. therefore the switch from white to brown is more than just healthy, it’s also a great way to conserve resources in the environment. Now who would say NO to that.

How about you? What has your experience been with brown rice? Have you done yoga in the park + tasty vegan brunch yet. I’ll be doing one last one & then break for the summer. If you have yet to try out my park yoga, don’t miss this one.. its going to be a spectacular midsummer yoga in the park + tasty vegan brunch. 21 June is the summer solstice. Its the longest day of summer with 16 hours of predicted daylight. Come out & enjoy the energy of the sun on this special day, with me if you are in the greater toronto area. Here’s where you can sign up..

–charuyoga–